FULL TRANSCRIPT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 40
Jessica: Do you sometimes think about how you’ll be able to move on through and past your divorce, or wonder how other people do it, or that it sometimes seems like it’s easier for others? Well, we can tell you firsthand, it’s not. It’s a process, and everyone has their own timeframe to work through it. But today on the Divorce etc… podcast, we’re talking to someone who is literally just like you. We connected with Jen about a year ago, and she hadn’t filed for divorce yet. She felt stuck. She was living with her husband and kids and was walking on eggshells all the time, in an unhappy situation filled with anxiety. It’s been a process, to say the least. But you’re going to hear about her journey and what it took to get where she is today, which is strong, independent, and happy. We’re the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We focus on helping you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS, and check out www.exexperts.com for tons of free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: I feel like Jen is one of our little chickadees. We started exEXPERTS to really help all of you from start to finish, thinking about it, working through it, and now where to really start again with the rest of your life. Jen showed up I’m not sure if it was at one of our support group sessions or virtual groups. She was DMing us; she was liking; she was commenting. Jen was all about learning. She is an educated mom of two. Literally, we started with Jen, like Jessica said, when she was lost, and I was telling her to put up a picture of a plant in her apartment, which she can talk a little bit more about. But she’s just such a fantastic success story. We’re thrilled to have you on Divorce etc…, Jen.
Jen: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Jessica: Thank you so much for being here. And so just to give everyone some context from you, can you briefly tell us where you were when we all first connected?
Jen: Yeah, I was completely lost. I had no idea what to do because I was just getting through the emotional part, which was hard enough, and just trying to make that decision, like, “Okay, is this time? Should I be doing this now?” Once I made that decision, I literally had no idea where to start. Because one thing that people, I think, don’t talk about that much is you have to do this huge legal thing at the same time that you’re processing all of your emotions, and trying to get over somebody or a situation, while also making sure that your kids are okay. It’s just when I met you guys, I was completely just overwhelmed and sad. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea. Meeting the two of you helped me more than I can even express.
T.H.: I just want everybody to know that Jen was living with her husband with her two daughters. One of them is old enough to drive. The other one—how old is your younger one?
Jen: She’s 11 now. So she was ten.
T.H.: Right, so she’s 10/11 years old, and Jen is working from home. She was, honestly, I feel our first conversation was “I don’t know if I’m making a mistake by getting a divorce.”
T.H.: “I really am not comfortable in my living circumstances. But am I making a mistake? I’ve known him forever.” Jen had a relationship with her husband like Jessica and Daren, like, for forever. And so you were struggling with identity, and being a bad mom, and perception, and the overwhelming impact of the word divorce and all that could possibly go with it. Listen, I think that what we do well, Jess, is we just support you unconditionally. We totally met you where you were. That’s where you were, and you were very upset, and you were very fragile—I remember that—and uncertain. I think that I was thrilled that you were comfortable enough to open up to us and let us just literally virtually hold your hand. You’re all the way on the West Coast, we’re all the way on the East Coast, but it didn’t matter.
Jessica: One thing that I just want to say as we’re talking about this part is, one thing that T.H. and I get, I would say more from trolls on social media and stuff, is almost as if we’re advocates of divorce, like we’re encouraging people to get divorced. Jen, from your perspective, as someone who worked with us and through the process, and we were trying to give you resources to figure things out for yourself, is that the impression you got? Or did you feel like the ball was 100% in your court, no judgment from us at all, but here are some things that you need to learn if this is the path you’re going to go down?
Jen: Yeah, so one of the first things I remember is I went to your website and I saw that there were all of these resources and interviews. I was like, “Oh, my God, there’s so much out there.” But I never at one point thought that you were advocating for divorce. In fact, I think like you said, you’re just meeting people where they are and helping to guide them, because the two of you have been through it. Once I took a step back and then I looked over it, I was like, “These are amazing.” I was trying to create my own little—I took notes, and I did all these types of things. But no, I definitely do not think—I think what you advocate is being healthy and recognizing when something might not be right for you, and then taking the steps to smartly navigate through it and get to the other side, because divorce is friggin the worst. I mean, especially I had been with my ex since I was 19, and I’m pretty old now, without saying how old I am. It’s been a few—
T.H.: We don’t either.
Jen: It’s been a long time. I didn’t really know who I was. It was just always him and I together, similar to you, Jessica.
Jen: There’s been so much that went into this process.
Jessica: Tell people, having been there fairly recently just a year ago, what helped you actually make the decision? Whichever way you were going to go, what were the things that helped you realize this is what’s going to be the best decision for me?
Jen: I think my gut always knew what the right thing was, and I was just scared to do it. What I started doing was I took charge of my situation. For me, that meant really facing some things that I’d been ignoring, doing some research, and figuring some stuff out. Therapy—I found a great therapist who seriously, between her and you guys, and my family was amazing. My friends and family, I just leaned on everybody. I just got to that point where I’m like, “Can I really see myself living the rest of my life feeling like this, because nothing’s going to change?” Then I thought, “Do I want my kids to witness this type of relationship and think that this is normal, and grow up and maybe seek out the same type of partner?” I’m not even trying to say anything bad about my ex. He just wasn’t the right person for me. Our time was done. Once I actually got my head around that and realized it was the healthiest thing, no matter how painful it was, because it was fucking painful, then I was able to make my moves. Then I was able to just take step by step and day by day. That’s how I made the decision really.
T.H.: I think we have really been in constant contact with you. One of your superpowers is really your interest and awareness that you need to learn, that you need to educate yourself. That clears clutter. That manages expectations. The unknown is super scary. But as soon as you started learning and asking us questions, that’s when you started to move forward. We’re not necessarily saying about physically moving forward, but in your own head and coming to grips with where you are, and his responsibility with your daughters versus yours, and shared responsibility. I’m going to fast forward now everybody, because our version of Jen when we first met her, I feel like it’s like the great reveal, like the great makeover. She lives on her own in an apartment that she found on her own. She’s always worked, and she fully supports herself. Her younger daughter is doing classes and stuff like that. Jen is working through a parenting plan with her. It’s not official yet, right?
Jen: Almost, almost. We’re waiting for one—
T.H.: Her soon to be ex.
T.H.: But she had conversations with her soon to be ex that were really hard and uncomfortable. She also really managed her relationship with her lawyer fabulously. She did not use her lawyer for a therapist. She used her lawyer for her legal processes and questions only. She managed her legal fees, and she also managed her parents, who were also difficult for her to handle. She’s got hutzpah, is what we say. She’s got, like, I don’t even know how to translate that word, but she’s got the guts and the whatever to set boundaries with people, even those that you love. This is a year, everybody. She created a settlement agreement, and we worked together on parenting and really figuring out where she wants to go. Her superpower and getting to where she is now is education: from us, from other resources, asking for help, just being a full sponge, so that she can make the best choices. I would give you the biggest hug, because you’re an example of someone who can really do it, and you didn’t think you could do anything.
Jessica: That’s the key, though, for a second. Let’s just pause on that for a minute. Because the real truth is that when we all first started talking, that was where you were. You didn’t feel like you could do it.
Jessica: You were thinking about staying where you were purely out of the fear, as to, were you’re going to be able to live this independent life, and was it going to be enough for you and for your girls. That, I just feel like, is something that we need to acknowledge. Because for everybody out there, we all have been there—the fear is what holds most of us back. It doesn’t matter almost what your situation is, it’s a similar feeling that we all have. And so I just, again, like T.H., kudos to you for setting an example of when you know what’s right and what doesn’t feel right, to be able to move forward with that is hugely brave and courageous. And so we acknowledge that for you. I think that’s really important.
Jen: Thank you. Just for the audience too, I never really considered myself a strong person. I don’t know if you could tell by now, I’m kind of like, go with the flow. I don’t create waves with people. That’s probably why I got in some of my situations. I wasn’t the most assertive person. I kind of was just like, it’s better to not look at things. For years, I focused on my children only, and I ignored how I was actually feeling. The point of saying that is that if I can, and no one knows me personally, obviously, but I’m asking you to trust. What I’m saying is, if I could do it, I’m serious, and I’m not saying it’s been easy. I’m not saying I haven’t had so many moments where I just start crying, because it’s a death. But it’s just really knowing yourself and realizing what you deserve. I will be not moving forward with any relationship—it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship, but any relationship. I have learned now to set boundaries, and to follow through with the boundaries. Whereas before, I think I was boundary-less. It’s not even a word, but I just made it a word.
T.H.: And we all understand what it means.
T.H.: Yeah, we just let shit happen, and we don’t speak up for ourselves, and we sacrifice ourselves along the way. I totally get it. We’re going to pause for a quick moment here. Because we know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce and how to move on from it, so we’ve done the work for you. As the exEXPERTS, we get questions every day from people looking for a trustworthy resource to support them through this difficult time. From the legal, the money, the kids, your self-care, and all of the other stuff, we cover it at www.exexperts.com and here on our Divorce etc… podcast. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to hear directly from us as we educate you on how to navigate your way through divorce, get what you need, and have what you want. Visit www.exexperts.com. We’ve lived it, so we get it. Jen, you said boundaries. What’s the number two thing for you that you have learned?
Jen: The other thing I have learned is about empowering myself around my finances. Because when I was married, you’re a team and a partnership, and it was easy for me just to kind of not—I knew what was going on, obviously. I knew roughly what—but I didn’t manage it. He managed it. I therefore really had no idea about budgets, and this makes me sound like I’m—
Jessica: No, it makes you—
T.H.: Like everybody.
Jessica: —like everybody else.
Jen: Yeah. Yeah, but I mean, I knew, obviously, but I didn’t own it, is what I’m trying to say.
T.H.: It wasn’t your job in your marriage.
Jen: It wasn’t. No, it was—
T.H.: We all take on different roles in our relationships, and that’s totally normal.
Jen: Exactly. Yeah, and we would discuss things. We would talk about things and what we were spending our money on. But I just didn’t have that firsthand managing my own stuff. Fast forward to now, like you mentioned before, I’m living in my own place with my kids. I have all my own bills. Everything, I have taken charge of. I know where all my money’s going. I can budget for things I want to. There’s a big amount of freedom in there. But, I mean, this is somebody—I am horrible at math. When we had check books, and I would try to balance the check book—
T.H.: Me too.
Jen: Yeah, no, not good. That’s the one thing that I think, and then being feeling empowered in that, has trickled into other things. As another example, I used to hate driving into LA. I live outside of LA, and I used to be scared about driving into LA into parts that I don’t know, to the point where I just wouldn’t do things. Now, if I want to do something, or my kids and I want to go on a day trip, I just go. Before, I was like a scared little bird or whatever. Now, I just have confidence.
Jessica: Because you know what you’re capable of.
Jen: Yeah, and I didn’t before, because I was so dependent on him to help me, and I went to him for everything. Now, I have nobody to go to but myself.
Jessica: And you’re showing up for yourself—
T.H.: Kudos to you.
Jessica: —and you’re doing it. Again, the audience listening, the financial piece is something that T.H. and I talk about all the time, because again, it’s wrapped up in fear normally. It’s like we don’t want to look at it because we’re afraid of what it’s going to say. T.H. always uses the analogy of it’s like getting on a scale. But we’re always afraid that if we look at it, we’re going to see in black and white that we cannot afford whatever it is that we think that we want to be able to afford. But the reality is what you just said—it’s actually empowering. Because when you look at it and when you figure it out, no matter where you are with it, now at least you can take control of it. You can figure out on your own what you’re going to do with it, what you’re going to do about it. Knowing that now falls under your realm and that you can choose this is what I’m going to save for, this is something I’m going to spend for, and you know the parameters with which you have to work, it really actually is so far from fear, because it’s like now you have—
T.H.: A huge strength.
Jessica: Yeah, and to go from fearful about it to feeling empowered about it is exactly what we want people to feel. The finances are usually one of the top two concerns.
T.H.: Yeah. There’s so much to say about Jen, but I do also remember that you were concerned about the house. What are you going to do about the house? Your kids are in the house.
Jessica: Should she keep the house?
T.H.: I mean he was less involved before you decided to get a divorce. Somebody had to make hard decisions, and it landed in your lap. You were either going to make a change or not. Jen went and got someone to appraise the house. Then when we spoke to Jen again, she goes, “Oh, I listed the house.” I was like, “Oh, wow, you get shit done, lady.”
Jen: That’s so funny.
T.H.: And it’s in a home that not only does she support herself in, but it’s decorated in a way that reflects her and her kids. She’s created a new home for them. That transition, I’m sure for your younger daughter in particular, was really hard. But you got her involved in decorating her room, and making dinners, and empowering her to take ownership of this house, as much as she’s going to, but still letting her play an active role in what’s next for her life too, and also, making her feel a little stronger. She was super dependent on you, day and night. And so how is she doing now?
Jen: Yeah, she’s doing pretty well. I mean, we’re all going through some—now that it’s been a few months and we’re settled into our new place and we can like think about our old house, what I try to tell them, when they talk about that we had had a bigger house, and it was better, and this and that, and now we’re in this small place, I’ll say, “Yeah, well, we had a big house, but it didn’t feel fun. It wasn’t a home. We never knew what to expect.” It wasn’t a home I guess is really what I’m saying. Versus now, we have less space, but it’s just us, and we don’t have to worry about any of that other crap. So it’s just a house. To anybody who’s debating, we sold the house, and then he and I went our separate ways. For anybody who’s debating what to do, and you want to hang on to the house or whatever, my recommendation would be to really look at that is. Is the house that important to you? Because I would imagine if I were to have stayed in the house, there would have been memories everywhere. It would have just felt odd. I don’t think I could have moved on as quickly as I did by just making a clean break and just starting new. It’s like, remember those old Sandra Bullock movies, or those old 80s movies where the woman starts off, and the woman’s driving down the street, and you don’t know where she’s going. She’s starting over again, and she’s moving in with her mom. It’s kind of like a cheesy Lifetime or 80s movie kind of situation. It’s sometimes when I laugh at myself that I think about. Because it is, that’s really what happens. Or that show One Day at a Time.
T.H.: Oh, yeah.
Jen: Remember Romano with her kids?
Jen: It’s kind of like that.
T.H.: But you are still working. You’re still independent. How’s the co-parenting going?
Jen: So we’re working through that. One of the things that surprised me is that my ex and I have a pretty amicable relationship when it comes to figuring out things about our younger daughter, because our older daughter is over 18. We do discuss things. Our whole focus is making sure that that she feels happy and secure. We’re trying not to push anything on her because we know that her life is turned upside down. I would say that I bet one day I’ll look back at all of this and think that he and I were probably better friendly acquaintance co-parents than we were married.
Jessica: I think that’s not uncommon.
T.H.: But also, Jen, your past with your husband, I’m sure had tons of beautiful memories. Just because it didn’t have longevity like you hoped, it doesn’t mean that it was all bad. Jessica says it all the time, “It wasn’t all bad.” I mean, clearly, there was a big thing that wasn’t good. But there were a lot of other things that were great. That’s why Jessica can still have a relationship with Daren. You are fresh and new here, and so as long as you guys can get along, because when you were living together, you weren’t getting along. You weren’t communicating. You were suffocating in the house. He was always there and not contributing. And so when you have that in your face 24/7, it was really, really hard for you. I think that also having your own space gave you the room to breathe. Now it doesn’t take away the fact that your kids are going to miss their old home. My kids missed their old home. There are great memories there. For my kids, it was their home. I mean, it was. That’s where I lived with them. That’s where your daughters lived with both of their parents. I’m sure that they feel like that was our home. But that doesn’t make this home bad.
Jessica: No, but I also love that, like you said, this home may just be the three of you, and it may be a smaller space, but this is the home that’s filled with joy, that you have now to create all of these new memories and have fun and feel lighter than any of you did in the other house.
T.H.: Well, or Jen feels lighter.
Jessica: There’s probably an element for the girls too as time goes by, that they’ll realize—
T.H.: Yeah, yeah, without some contention.
Jessica: —stress that was emanating from the home. But I want to also find out, okay, so you’ve talked about the importance of boundaries, the empowerment of—
Jessica: —taking control of your financial situation. Yeah, is there one more important tip that you would give to people listening, who are like, “What do I need to do, because I don’t know anything.”?
Jen: Okay, so I’m a big action oriented list person. When you’re in the beginning of this process, everything is so frigging overwhelming. But what I did was I created lists. I wrote it down on a piece of paper, all the things that I needed to do, and I did them in chunks. I think chunking out, like, “Okay, I’m going to get the realtor. I’m going to find a realtor, I’m going to do that, then I’m going to put the house up, and then the divorce stuff.” I think having things in buckets helps not to feel so overwhelmed. But I also really believe in the power of a good therapist at the same time, somebody who doesn’t know you and can help you. Because without my therapist—seriously, I was lucky to find a good one—but going along with the therapist thing, if you’re seeing a therapist and you don’t gel with them, just look for another one. Seriously, it’s fine, until you find the right one who can help you. That’s the other thing that I learned.
Jessica: —therapy and listing and chunking things out. When it comes to therapy, we always advocate for therapy. There are a lot of people out there who are like, “Well, I’ve tried it. It really didn’t work. I didn’t really get anything out of it.” I’m always like, “Because you didn’t have the right person.” And that’s okay. You have no idea. You’re making a call off of a random list you get from your insurance company, or this or that. You don’t know until you talk to them a few times. You get to have one 15 minute intro call, and then you have to decide like, is this the person I’m going to start spilling my guts to? But for everybody out there, if you don’t feel you are comfortable spilling your guts to whomever your therapist is, what Jen said is exactly right, go find someone else. Because everyone who talks about the gift of therapy, it’s true, if you don’t feel that way, it’s because you haven’t found the right therapist. By the way, it’s the same when it comes to a divorce lawyer. If you go out—
Jessica: —you are working with a divorce lawyer, and for some reason, you’re feeling uneasy. Maybe you’re feeling like they’re curt with you, or short, or not giving you the time and attention that you require, or they’re not responsive to you, whatever the case may be. This is someone you have to trust, that can go into a room with the other side’s lawyer, and come out having looked after your best interests. If you don’t feel that you’re vibing like that with your divorce lawyer, go meet with other divorce lawyers. Because they will—
T.H.: Yeah. Remember, they work for you.
Jen: They work for you, exactly.
Jessica: These are decisions that are going to be made and kept for the rest of your life.
T.H.: Yeah, yeah, it’s a shit ton of money to spend on someone who you feel is not right. Jen talked about it, and I definitely felt this way in my marriage, I was afraid to trust my gut. There were many times with my lawyer that I was afraid to speak up. Because she’s the lawyer, she obviously knows. Who am I to say anything? Except you can still say something—your money allows you to say something. Only use your lawyer for your legal. Use your therapist and for your therapy. Jen, what did you use exEXPERTS and us for? How do you think that you leaned in on us? What were we able to help you with?
Jen: I think a lot of beginning—well, everything—but a lot of that beginning stuff, like what you just were talking about. I had no idea about how to hire a divorce lawyer. No idea. Stuff like that, or just about my living situation, and I would talk through with you guys like, “What do you think?” You would provide some great suggestions, things I hadn’t even thought of, just because you’re familiar with divorce. I’m not. It was just like me absorbing all of the information. I remember crying a lot on the—because I was just so miserable and overwhelmed and just so sad. Because nobody marries somebody thinking they’re going to get divorced. I just felt like a failure. I just felt like I let myself down. Just going through all those emotions, when I would have them, and just talking to you guys, helped me a lot too. I think you’re different than a therapist in the sense that you’re experts. You’re exEXPERTS, so you know what you’re talking about. I think—
T.H.: Go ahead.
Jen: Oh, that was it.
T.H.: I just wanted to say the difference. I had a therapist, and a therapist digs deep into why and undoing that patterns, what we did with Jen really was provide her with the education. We met her where she was along the way, as she kept growing. It is a roller coaster. Some days, Jen would be, “Oh, my God, I’m so excited.” Another day, it was I think the day that you were actually going to sign papers, that you were kind of backtracking, you were like, “I think I’m making a mistake.” All we did was listen. We’re really your girlfriend’s through it all. We don’t pass judgment. This is no bullshit. It’s all ultimately your choice, but we’re just a sounding board for you to help you work through wherever you are and whatever challenges you’re facing right now. And so I’m really glad that we were able to help you, Jen. We are, again, your super fans—
T.H.: —and super proud of you.
Jen: Thank you.
T.H.: I cannot wait to meet you in person one day.
Jessica: And I also, not to be beating a dead horse, but I feel the things that were the most important for you, which were learning how to create boundaries, and learning how to gain financial freedom and financial independence for yourself, those are such common challenges going through divorce. To be able to—for us, because those were things that we dealt with ourselves, having to deal with boundaries in totally different ways, and taking care of our own finances, and figuring all of that out along the way, these are the reasons why we created exEXPERTS. Because we felt like we went through all this stuff completely blind and drowning and having no idea which direction to go. Thank God we could bounce it off of each other. But now it’s like, now we know about those things, and to be able to just offer some of that, and have people like you who feel like, “Okay, fine, it’s been a year,” which isn’t even really that long in the grand scheme of things, but now where we are, we’re so proud.
Jessica: We’re so proud, honestly, of the progress that you made. We love hearing the updates. For people listening, your divorce doesn’t have to be just like Jen’s. Your situation doesn’t have to be just like Jen’s, just like T.H.’s, or just like mine. But all of us, no matter what we’re dealing with, are dealing with some very similar situations. The details may not be identical, but the general feelings and emotions and struggles are universal.
T.H.: Right. That’s what connects all of us. The feelings are the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, or who you’re married to, or whatever it is, the feelings of fear and being overwhelmed and questioning yourself, and sometimes you just need validation to know you’re not alone, and what you’re thinking is right, or we just kind just coach you to think through it. Ultimately, it’s your decision. We aren’t going to tell you to go one way or the other for anything. But now, Jen is putting herself out there into the world of dating. She’s meeting new people and now figuring out her next chapter, which is like the beginning of the beginning.
Jen: Thank you. That’s good. Yeah, that’s good. I would just say one final thing is it’s important to have respect for yourself, but don’t accept anything that you know is not good for you. As scary as it is, have the hutzpah, or have the strength in yourself to want the best for yourself. That’s what would I say is the most important, is having respect, being your own advocate, everything.
T.H.: And knowing that you deserve it. Because I feel like a lot of times you weren’t feeling like you deserved—
T.H.: —all the goodness that could be there for you. I think today’s a different kind of day.
Jen: Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to continue to grow. I’m not always happy about everything. But it’s just knowing how—
T.H.: No, no, no, sorry, you’re still human.
Jen: Yeah, exactly.
Jessica: Well, Jen, it’s a very inspiring story. We love the success stories. Not success because you got divorced, but success because like you just said, you had the courage to stand up for what you believe in, creating your boundaries, educating yourself to be able to move forward, and give yourself and your kids a new opportunity and a new life that you all deserve. We’re so proud to know you, and we’re so glad to have had the opportunity to work with you. For everybody else out there listening, if you enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, then can you help a few girls out? Please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review our Divorce etc… podcast, because that actually helps to bump it up on the list on podcast platforms so more people can find us, and we can help support them too as they’re going through divorce and beyond. Check the show notes for more information. Of course, share this episode with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.